The key to understanding the interplay between cancer and the immune system is quantifying the spatial biology and co-expression patterns of critical cell types. We used lessons from astronomy (Sloan Digital Sky Survey) to efficiently map tumor pathology tissues with high-fidelity, single-cell resolution using multispectral microscopy. The resultant AstroPath platform increases the amount of data acquired per slide by >100x and supports immunotherapeutic and diagnostic biomarker development.

Patients with numerous cancer types have shown remarkable responses to immunotherapy. Unfortunately, ~2/3 of patients still do not respond. Robust, reproducible acquisition and analysis of Big Data from human samples is critical for optimizing immuno-oncology. A major barrier to generating this information is the ability to visualize and query a large number of immunoactive molecules and cells across thousands of individual patients’ tumors. We developed AstroPath, a highly scalable end-to-end system with high-quality imaging and an interactive database. Using multispectral approaches to image the tumor microenvironment and substituting cells for stars and galaxies, we leveraged the methodology and infrastructure gained by the astronomy field. The resultant tumor-immune maps are being made publically available via open-source Atlases. The maps inform why some patients benefit from certain therapies and reveal other pathways that need to be engaged or inhibited to benefit more patients.

Tags: Astronomy, Pathology, Cancer Immunology, Biomarkers, Big Data, Immuno-Oncology